Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Donation allows Fox Hill Tower to reopen

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
July 10, 2007

VERNON - Fox Hill War Memorial Tower, which fell victim to budget cuts and had been closed to visitors, will reopen thanks to a donation from local businessman Eric Santini, Mayor Ellen L. Marmer announced today.

The historic 72-foot stone structure was slated for closure for the entire year in order to meet fiscal constraints. It shut its doors to visitors for the first time in years last week.

Santini plans to present a check of $1,300 to the town during a ceremony at the tower, located in Henry Park, on Wednesday at 3 p.m., Marmer announced.

Built in 1939 by the Work Projects Administration during the Depression, the memorial, also known as Fox Hill Tower, stands as the town's symbol and is depicted on the town seal.

The structure, which is a memorial to Vernon's war veterans, is three stories high and made with granite quarried locally. Standing upon the 693-foot hill north of downtown Rockville, it can be seen far and wide and offers views as distant as Holyoke, Mass., and Meriden.

About 1,800 people visit the site each year, and an occasional wedding ceremony is held at its base.

The tower typically is opened seasonally on weekend afternoons and on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. There is no charge to go into the tower, but because of its historical significance and great height, supervision is necessary, town officials say.

When the tower was shut down last week, town officials told the Journal Inquirer it cost the town about $1,300 annually to operate, with Park and Recreation supervisors allocated about $8 or $9 an hour to staff the building.

It's been nearly 20 years since the tower last had to be closed.

In 1986 the tower was shut down for a time as it underwent a full renovation at a cost of $250,000. It closed again for a week or so in 1994 as it was spruced up with paint and new windows for around $8,500.

This latest closure came about because of budget cuts, however.

The Town Council in May had department heads reduce their budgets by 2 percent across the board in an attempt to have a third budget pass referendum.

That proposal failed, and even further reductions were needed before voters finally approved a $72.79 million budget, representing a 2.95 percent increase in spending over last year's $70.71 million package, in a fourth referendum.

Last week, Marmer said closing the tower was unfortunate, but necessary as the town had economic priorities.

©Journal Inquirer 2007